Tyre Will Not Stay CasiNO Free

Proposed Lago Resort and Casino to be Begin Construction with State-Awarded Commercial Casino License
Store Front of Valley Pharmacy, courtesy of Valley Pharmacy.net

Store Front of Valley Pharmacy, courtesy of Valley Pharmacy.net

SENECA COUNTY, NY—The building located on 12 West Main Street, Waterloo, NY has been in the pharmacy business since 1856. It sits right in the heart of old historic Waterloo, NY. It is a company dedicated to serving its local residences and neighboring communities.

Valley Pharmacy is roughly 18 minutes southwest of the proposed site of Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, NY and owner Sardar Rafiq Ahmad is not happy about this. He is fully opposed to the building of the this resort and casino so close to his home and work.

And Ahmad is not the only one.

Many local businesses surrounding and within Tyre have expressed their opposition and worry to the disturbance this proposed casino and resort will bring to the Finger Lakes region. These businesses include a wide variety of specialties like Cafe XIX, in Seneca Falls, NY, Thomas Electronics, Clyde, NY, and many more.

Those who have voiced the biggest opposition, though, are the citizens of the small rural community of Tyre, NY.

Tyre with a population of roughly 900 people will see their way of life change if Lago Resort and Casino breaks ground and brings an estimated 3.4 million visitors each year, as stated on Lago Resort and Casino’s website (while writing this article the website crashed, and may still not be working).

The Specifics of Lago Resort and Casino

lago

Proposed exterior of Lago Resort and Casino, courtesy of their website

Thomas C. Wilmot, Sr., the Director of Lago Resort and Casino, is pushing for the proposed casino and resort to be built in Tyre right off Exit 41 of the NYS Thruway, as stated on Lago Resort and Casino’s website. He is also the Chairman of the commercial real estate development and management company called, Wilmorite.

In Dec. 2013 representatives of Wilmorite met with town of Tyre officials and agreed to fund all direct and indirect costs to the community and, after an extensive six-month review costing more than $2 million. The town of Tyre passed all necessary approvals and town officials recently participated in the public roll out of the Lago Resort and Casino, according to the section Lago News on their website.

Yesterday, The New York Gaming Facility Location Board announced in Albany, NY that Lago Resort and Casino was recommended for a license that will approved within the next 60 days, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

Wilmorite, if issued the gaming license in the next 60 days, will have two years to build the casino and resort, but before this can happen the New York State Gaming Commission will review this recommendation from the board, as stated on the Democrat & Chronicle.

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Proposed interior of Lago Resort and Casino, courtesy of their website

“Wilmorite and its partners are contributing $90,000,000.0 of private equity and have commitments for a loan of $335,000,000 from Credit Suisse, which totals our project budget of $425,000,000,” writes James Wilmot, Assistant Vice President of Gaming in an email.

When asked about the operational budget he said that was not public information and is the “secret sauce” of the project.

On Lago Resort and Casino’s website they list the milestones they have already achieved and will achieve in the future if the casino and resort is built.

One milestone is that they have completed a project labor agreement (PLA) that has been entered into with the Finger Lakes Building Trades Council and its 19 affiliated labor unions to ensure efficient, safe, quality, and timely completion of the project, guaranteeing the employment of local tradespeople.

Also, they have created what is called “NY First” which is part of Lago Resort and Casino’s commitment to the local economy. Wilmorite will purchase at least 90% of the good and services available in New York from New York businesses with a focus on vendors from the Finger Lakes region.

Under the Community section of Lago Resort and Casino’s website they claim that they will create 1,800 construction jobs and more than 1,800 permanent jobs relating to the casino which they say they will have a $50 million payroll.

Last month, seven companies have been granted millions of dollars to participate specifically in the casino and resort building process.

  • The Pike Company: Awarded $16 million contract for site work
  • Manning Squires Hennig and Cives Steel: Awarded $15 million contract for foundations and steel
  • LeChase Construction: Awarded $15 million contract to build a parking garage
  • John W. Danforth Company, Billitier Electric and Crosby-Brownlie: Awarded $45 million in contracts for mechanical, electrical and plumbing work on hotel and casino facilities

Right now, there is a total of $91 million in contracts so far of this $425 million project. No other contracts have been awarded so it is unclear where the rest of the $334 million is going.

Wilmorite claims that this casino will generate $263 million in gaming revenue in its first year and the town of Tyre will receive approximately $6.45 million in tax and fee revenues annually and New York State will see approximately $85 million in tax and fee revenues annually, according to Gaming NY.

The casino and resort will include a 94,000 square foot casino with 2,000 slot machines, 85 gaming tables, and 207 hotel rooms, according to their website.

The Controversy

On Oct. 27, 2014 a 79-page report called “The Regional Market Impact of a Proposed Tyre, New York Casino: Estimated Displacement of Existing Gaming & Employment at Turning Stone Casino, Onedia & Onodaga Counties,” was released by Chair of Department of Political Science at the University of Texas Clyde W. Barrow, Ph.D. and Pyramid Associates, LLC which discussed the impact this casino will have on existing neighboring casinos and communities.

Barrow also discusses the indirect and direct economic and market impact this proposed casino will have on gaming and race track gross gaming revenue in neighboring gaming and race track.

report

Chart found on page iv of Barrow’s report

“It is estimated that 67.0% of the proposed [Lago] Casino & Resort’s gross gaming revenue will be displaced and cannibalization of existing casino gaming revenues in New York, with almost half of the total negative impact accruing to Turning Stone Casino Resort and its employees,” writes Barrow in the report.

Turning Stone Casino will be only approximately 76.6 miles west of the proposed Lago Resort and Casino, an one hour and fifteen minute drive according to Google Maps.

The report comes to a conclusion that Lago Resort and Casino will be a direct competitor with Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, Tioga Downs Casino, Vernon Downs Casino, and the Turning Stone Resort Casino in their primary and secondary market areas.

After this report was released Director of Lago Resort and Casino, Thomas C. Wilmot, responded to Barrow and Pyramid Associate’s article and discredits his work and calling Barrow and Pyramid Associates a “front group” for Turning Stone.

Barrow responded in a Letter to the Editor on Syracuse.com on Nov. 6.

“My firm prepared a 79-page report which finds that the proposed Lago Resort would have a significant negative impact on Turning Stone Resort Casino, Vernon Downs Casino Hotel, Finger Lakes Gaming, and Tioga Downs Casino” writes Barrow in Syracuse.com,“These impacts would result in a loss of approximately $105 million in gaming revenues by existing facilities and a loss of more than 1,200 direct jobs, particularly in Onondaga and Oneida Counties.”

Not only was Barrow insulted by Wilmot’s claims but he compared Wilmot’s response to the report “like a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum than a successful businessman.”

“Finally, Mr. Wilmot touts the philosophical virtues of a wide-open deregulated hyper-competitive market as a benefit to consumers. He should tell that to the 14,000 workers in Atlantic City, and the 7,000 workers in Connecticut, who lost their jobs to new competition with no noticeable improvement in the quality of casino gaming in the region,” says Barrow in his article.

Despite Wilmot stating that Lago Resort and Casino will ” not impact Turning Stone is any meaningful way” Barrow and Pyramid Associates, LCC have the numbers to discredit Wilmot’s statement, says Barrow on Syracuse.com.

A Change in Quality of Life?   

Community Assessment of the Effects of Casinos on Quality of Life,” is an academic journal article written by Mark Nichols, B. Grant Stitt and David Giacopassi in which they search to answer the question if the introduction of casino gambling will affect the citizens of that communities’ day-to-day quality of life.

This journal explores this issue utilizing multiple indicators gathered as part of an in-depth study of the effects of casino gambling on crime and quality of life in eight casino jurisdiction in the US (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 229).

The towns that were included in the study were Sioux City, IA, St. Joseph, St. Louis City and St. Louis County, MO, Alton, Peoria, and East Peoria, IL and Biloxi, MS.

Peoria did not have a casino at the time of the survey way taken but did have a riverboat casino in 1991 but for regulatory reasons was moved to East Peoria in 1993. Peoria shares in the tax revenue from the riverboat with East Peoria and many citizens of Peoria are customers /employees of the casino (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 235).

Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL courtesy of Tots and Travel

Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL courtesy of Tots and Travel

“Peoria, therefore, presents a unique case study of the impact of casino gambling on neighboring jurisdictions” (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 235).

This survey was taken between October 1998 June 1999 and the overall purpose of the survey was to collect opinion and perceptual data from community respondents regarding the impacts that casinos have had on crime and quality of life in their communities (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 235).

Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi also mention and recognize quality of life is a complex entity because, cliche as it is, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

“What is seen as positive effects by one person may be ignored, obscured, non-existent, or even negative for another person” (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 257).

Individuals with moral opposition to gambling view casinos as a negative addition to their community, source (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 256). Majority of Tyre’s citizens is opposed to this casino so it likely, in light of this study, that in their perspective quality of life will decrease if this casino and resort is built in Tyre.

The results from the survey concluded that casino gambling had a neutral effect on the average citizen when it came to quality of life. Also, that the economic related indicators were perceived positively by the citizens and crime related indicators were perceived negatively (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 257).

“The size of the casino relative to the population plays a significant role in determining the quality of community life” (Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi, 256). It seems the small town of Tyre’s quality of community life would have to dramatically change if they are expecting 3.3 million visitors/tourists annually.

In their conclusion sentence Nichols, Stitt, Giacopassi  warn jurisdictions who are contemplating the legalization of casino gambling as a panacea for their economic troubles to make sure to consider the tradeoffs involved relative to quality of life issues and, in particular, the lack of agreement within the communities on the effects of casinos on the quality of family life (258).

Community Response

Citizens protesting Lago Resort and Casino, taken from Casino Free Tyre.

Citizens protesting Lago Resort and Casino, courtesy of Casino Free Tyre.

Despite James Wilmot’s claim that Lago Resort and Casino “received unanimous support from host town and county” the scene of opposition in Tyre, NY paints a different picture.

After news that a casino and resort might be built in their small community, the locals came together to oppose and petition this proposal in their rural town.

They quickly created a website called casinofreetyre.com, where they list the communities’ reasons for their opposition.

Some reasons are as follows: socio-economic costs like gambling addiction, decrease in property value, crime will go up, create traffic gridlock and low paying jobs offered by the casino.

“Communities that agree to host casinos are never the same again…Together, we can stop the commercial impact of our rural home!” is a quote written under the Community section of their website.

Most of the citizens, which in 2010 was a population of 981 people, are multi-generational farms and families, Amish and Mennonite, non-farming families who still live in a rural community, sportsman and wildlife enthusiasts, according to City-Data and Casino Free Tyre.

Montezuma Wildlife Refuse, taken from Finger Lakes.com

Montezuma Wildlife Refuse, courtesy of Finger Lakes.com

Citizens are also worried about the environmental impacts this casino and resort will have on their land. They mention the potential pollution of White Brook source that goes from Tyre to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. This disturbance can affect the refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife that Montezuma Wildlife Refuge fight so hard to keep safe, according to U.S Fish & Wildlife Services.

The slogan on the main page of the website reads, “Our goal is to open the eyes of the town of Tyre and the surrounding areas to the real risks and costs that a casino has on a community and beyond.”

More than 700 community members have signed the petition against the casino, which is 15 times more than those in favor, according to Casino Free Tyre.

Amish riding on horse and buggy, courtesy of Casino Free Tyre

Amish riding on horse and buggy, courtesy of Casino Free Tyre

They also list communities, businesses and places of worship opposed to this casino.

  • Local Amish Communities opposed: Over 1188 local and neighboring community members
  • Mennonite communities opposed: 1716 adults and 3075 children
  • Area Churches opposed: 10
  • Area Businesses opposed:  11

If Lago Casino and Resort is given a class 3 commercial casino license it has become clear that Tyre, NY will never be the same. Although, if they are not awarded it will not only be a victory for the citizens of Tyre but for all those in Seneca, Onondaga and Oneida Counties who have fought hard to keep casino and resort away from their homes, businesses and way of life.

 

UPDATED: 12/18/14 at 2:47 PM

Clare is the Copy Editor of Zap-Ed-News. She is studying Media and Society and English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and is part of the William Smith Class of 2015.

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